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Monday, September 27, 2010

Humid and Sticky




Yesterday Inger ( Desert Girl) asked me if we have Indian Summer up here.


Currently she is sweltering in high desert heat. It is the backside of our current weather cycle.


We are getting Pineapple Express, our November weather, overlapped on our usual September warm weather.


Together it equals a heat and humidity we are not much use to.


This has been a very odd September


Professor Mass has some interesting computer images on his blog that readily illustrate this. I have never seen these moisture plumes as distinct as this.


He predicts with the set up of La Nina we will have a colder and wetter winter. Seems we are already having a bit of November.






Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Is Over

Without a doubt, it is over.





Everything was wet and soggy. I got a late start and still , dew covers everything. There is a chill this mid-morning. The Mountain Ash prepared for happy Robins to dine.





Flowers from earlier have disappeared. In their place, fruit and seed pods


even orchids produce some seeds.


Bog Orchis





Western Coralroot



The dogwood related Bunchberry shows you why it has that name.





Mushrooms are around, but I am not seeing the sought after King Bolete or Chanterelles.


Just little fairy umbrellas



and interesting purple ones





purple just "don't seem natural"


It was a lovely day




But it just feels over.


Small flocks of pee-d-pee-ding kinglets and chickadees. They are friends again and will spend the winter in feeding guilds. These flocks bring safety. More eyes against the predators.


Alas it is over. No Blueberries nor Huckleberries to gather. I came up here just to get them, but they probably never really were here. Last year my spot yielded a bounty. This year the spot has a few sad berries that taste of sour water. No sweetness.


Leave them for the wildlife and wish them well


Summer, it does not feel like it was really here, this year.


Now it is over.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nisqually Land Trust ~ Mt. Rainier Gateway

Saturday I joined the Nisqually Land Trust in what is the first volunteer event of the new 2010-11 work party season. I wrote about several events I attended over the last year and we are off on a new season of working in the great outdoors, no matter the weather.


The forecasts for this weekend were nothing to be happy about. It seemed doom and gloom but the reality was not that bad. I was fully prepared to get soaked through and went prepared with a full change of clothes. We had, however, the most glorious morning. It did in fact get downright hot while working. Mind you we had pretty much full sun and digging and whacking is hard work.


The property is one I had not been to before, The "Allen Estate" on the east edge of Ashford, right at the Mt Rainier NP gateway. www.nisquallylanddtrust.org/mtrainier/php


I had not been this far up the road in so very long. This property is that of the historic homestead of Oscar Dana Allen. Mr Allen was a contemporary of Gifford Pinchot who was the first chief of the US Forest Service and coined the term "Conservation Ethic". Along with his sons , Mr Allen made the first botanical assay of the park. He and his sons went on to be key in the administration of the park and state forests in the early half of the 1900's



My drive took me through the Ohop valley where last Halloween we had a work party to plant the valley floor. I stopped along the way to take a picture. While you might not be able to tell, I can see the green shrubs and trees we planted, hiding amid the tall grasses that have since sprung back up. There will be another Halloween work party this year and you can bet I will try to attend. You can see the photos from last years event in my 10/31/2009 blog entry.





I passed wood art and metal art. Recycled Spirits of Iron by Dan Klennert is a fun stop along the way. There is also an excellent coffee stop at the Ashford HQ of International Mountain Guides. After working I stopped at Copper Creek Inn, near the park gate for an excellent bowl of stew.




Recycled Spirits of Iron by Dan Klennert




This work party was a two-part. Start by pulling out Scots Broom ( yippee violence mayhem and destruction) and then plant Douglas Fir trees. The Scots Broom pull is made easy with root jacks and plenty of hands. Our little group made short work and then got on to the trees. They were beautiful! One volunteer had nurtured them through the summer and she reports they had easily doubled in their size. Every pot, tree and hour spent in raising these trees along with the greenhouse space at Pack Forest was donated. A labor of love.


Look at these little darlings. Classic Christmas trees that will grow to be our regions iconic tree. The green tapes will make them easy to spot while they are little.





As usual, Joe Kennedy gave a demo on how to properly plant the trees.





The rough grass needs to be whacked back and the turf and soil removed, the hard part. Dig and plant, the easy part. Well the easy part was based on where you dug. Clearly there was a large rock topped drive under this spot. From the state highway we drove up what once was an access road. Joe's truck created a perfume of "mint" as he drove over the greenery that carpeted this path through the woods. The only native mint I know of is Self Heal. I have never crushed it to see if it smells as lovely as this. The open area was overgrown with native blackberry, nettle and non native Scots Broom. Hidden was where the access lane continued on. Shovels found it in the form of rough egg sized rocks covered over by soil.

We cleared the area of broom and planted 100 trees in three hours. There was time for a chat break where we learned about the property and of the long term effort in this area. The preservation of blocks of habitat provides for all of the animals and flora with particular attention of the habitat needed for Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet. The murrelet is a seabird which nests in the forest. They will fly out to the Pacific Ocean and back to this area EVERY DAY during nest season. That is about 125 miles one way. I have only ever seen murrelet on the ocean, never in the woods.
After work and a bit of lunch, I decided since I was all the way up here, I might as well go home the "pretty way". So I entered Mt Rainier NP and circled around via Paradise. I used to drive this road every summer when I lived further south from Seattle. Now it is much easier to access the park from the Sunrise area. I love this road from Longmire to Paradise as it is very wild. Much as it was in the early part of the 1900's it is two lanes almost no shoulder. Giant trees edge right up to the road much like the Hoh Rainforest Road. Every so often you see where one of these close trees have taken whacks from wide load motor homes. I have to imagine there are a lot of motor homes who have lost their passenger side mirrors. Deep scars about mirror high mark these trunks.




I stopped along the way at different points just to enjoy the sights. Mt Rainier creates it own weather and I went from the sunny clear miracle morning to a totally socked in mountain in about 40 minutes.


Sun Mountain





Some Mountain






No Mountain




I love seeing evidence of the historic CCC work crew constructions. Tunnels and stone bridges in particular. The view area for Christine Falls allows you to see the lovely stonework.





Box Canyon a 180 foot deep gouge made by the Muddy Fork Cowlitz River has a wonderful tunnel on its west side. Along the trail you can see the glacier carved stone that makes up this canyon and its walls. Here it is simply stone covered by moss and lichens.






This is glacier carved and smoothed rock covered in moss and lichen






Box Canyon, 180 feet down to the water.





I did find some evidence of late summers bloom but for the most part they are gone and now the hillsides are hues of yellow and gold with occasional Mountain and Vine Maple trees adding their color.
Paintbrush and Pearly everlasting.




An Earth Star type, Geastrum sp. puffball




Lovely Redwood Sorrel



The Nisqually Land trust takes its name for the beautiful river that carved this territory and the people who call it their homeland. The Nisqually River starts at the foot of Nisqually Glacier a sadly reduced glacier but never the less powerful to experience. I have been up on the trials above the glacier and you can hear sounds in the mists that tell you there is a power deep in this river of ice.
The young river in its glacial valley



Nisqually Glacier




PS This lovely lady showed up at the work party and was justly given a photo op. I tentitively id her as a Shamrock Spider, Araneus trifolium belonging to the Orb Weaver spider group. I owe some photos to a young man who was working with his Dad and was most excited about his discovery



As he should be, she is a beauty!!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Like Here Only Different , Cotswold Way (better late than never)


(Originally written in early September and just now realized I never posted it)

I took a short vacation to England last week and have finally caught up with my daily life to tell you about it. Once again it was a great journey. I love England and was thrilled to be able to spend time out in the country-side. I regret that my vacation was not longer, largely because I spent a fair amount of time simply going from here to there, rather than staying in London the whole time. There is, however, a lot to be enjoyed by simply looking out the window of a train.


The one non-stop flight from Seattle leaves in the evening, so after a full day of work an overnight flight leaves you a bit weary. This time I immediately took the train north-west to the town of Morton in Marsh. The trains in England are wonderful and efficient. With so may companies covering the different regions of the country and operating so smoothly and efficiently it is a snap to get to most anywhere quickly and easily.


I had planned on taking the bus from the train to the village of Chipping Campden. I armed myself with timetables of two different bus companies that operate in the area. When I arrived at Morton, it was drizzling and dreary, much in keeping with my brain. I saw the one taxi zoom away from the station and knew I had no choice but to walk over to the High Street and wait 30 minutes in the rain for the bus. I was glad I checked with a local shop keeper since of the two bus stops in town I had, at first, selected the wrong one. She got me pointed in the right direction.
Note to self, duffel bag suitcase is not completely waterproof.


In the end, I am happy I took the bus. We covered the 5 miles (as the crow flies) to Chipping Campden in 45 minutes. The bus circled and convoluted around the area calling on different small areas and crossroads. It was a nice introduction to the area I would be in. There was a trio of folks who I chatted with and they pointed out some local areas of interest through the steamy windows.


I stayed at the Eight Bells Inn. The old timber and stone building originated in the 14th century and was rebuilt in the late 17th century to house the bells that were hung in St James tower. The bells tolled hourly and it was a quiet and gentle background in the peaceful surroundings. My room was cozy and comfortable and there is nothing more welcome at the end of such a long "day" of about 35 hours length.


No I don't sleep on planes.


After a traditional breakfast I set out on my walk. The Cotswold Way is one of 15 national trails in England and was officially launched in 2007. The tradition of "rambling" in England is an old one. Thanks to the "right to pass" laws, private property is often cross-able. There is a responsibility and understanding that you pass quietly and without disruption. Gates and fences are left as they are found. You will share the way with whatever animals (and their offerings) might be in the field. Cotswold Way starts in Chipping Campden and ends in Bath ( or the reverse), a distance of about 105 miles. You can hike in one direction. There are Sherpa services that will transport your bag from one BB/ hotel / inn along the way to the next. Some people hike with backpack. That is certainly a tempting prospect for a future vacation.


My original plan was to hike 13 miles to the village of Stanway where there was a historic Jacobean house and garden. There was a bus service that called in the crossroad but through my research I found that the bus did not call into the area except at two times a day, which would have made the trip stunningly long. I consulted with the bus company and I could have ventured out to a highway to catch the bus, but I felt there was just to many possible things to go wrong to make this work.


I opted to hike out and back from Chipping to Broadway. The round trip would be 13 miles and I knew it would be a much more reasonable way to tackle the trip. I am glad for this choice. It was still drizzling and dripping. I brought my rain poncho, a military surplus item that dates the 60's. It is no longer entirely waterproof but was suitable for this trip. I have a book which has amazingly detailed maps but the way is marked with frequent signs and pointers. Most of the way you can simply see the footpath made by those who went before you.






One starts by walking through the village. It is a different way of life and even at 9am, milk bottles were outside many doors. Up a gravel road between farm buildings and out onto a hillside called Dover's Hill.





Have you heard of Shin Kicking? The competitive (?!) activity of shin kicking? Here is where it originated. http://www.olimpickgames.co.uk/


The views away from the hilltop were obscured by mist and fog but no matter. There were sheep seen and heard everywhere. This is wool country and it is less than what it used to be. Back in the day many fields had artificial banks built across them. These long banks created more surface area in the field to graze more animals. Now sheep are still seen and heard everywhere. It would have been a wonder to see it at its prime.


The soil is quite stony and it is easy to see why stone is the major building material here. I have never seen a cultivated field with such stone. Golden Cotswold Stone is the signature for this area. Today, some of the well tilled fields were mucky with it.





The highlight of this stretch of the Cotswold Way is Broadway Hill. Broadway Tower was built in 1799 by the Earl of Coventry as a folly for his Lady. It was a popular retreat and party spot notably by the artist William Morris. I was thrilled with the appearance of the tower from the mist and it certainly lent a feeling of magic. www.en.wikipedia/wiki/Folly





This is a typical appearance of the trail, across grassy fields through walls. You cannot go wrong. The tower is a bonus.






From the tower high above the town of Broadway you could have fantastic views. Picturesque does not begin to describe. I was sorry so many of the wildflowers were past and with the rains bug action was almost nil.





Fruits of the Lords and Ladies plant.






There was wall repair to notice and marvel at. It will be impossible to tell the difference, with time, between old and new, the style and technique remains unchanged.






On the High Street of town there were plenty of houses to appreciate and shops to peek into. I stepped into a pub for a bowl of courgette (zucchini) soup then headed back to Chipping.





The way back I walked at a brisker pace. The winds had picked up and the drizzle was a bit more organized. Crossing stiles with a poncho flapping about was a bit of a challenge.





The map and the clear cut track showed that one was to cross a plowed field diagonally. Going out I went around the edge of the field but returning, I cut across it, as the track and map showed.





It was a gummy golden Cotswold mucky mess! Thank goodness there was a lot of wet grass along the return and I worked hard at getting all the gumbo mud off my shoes. By the time I reached Dover's Hill, the hard weather pretty much stopped and arriving back into town I spent time going in and out of some of the shops.


I was completely thrilled after my walk. The round trip took 6 1/2 hours, pretty much as I thought it would. The track was simple compared to the footing and altitude gains I am use to here. In my room there was a small portable heater and I fired it up and made a desperate attempt to dry everything. It dawned on me that I had to pack up and return to London the next day and muddy pants and shoes were going to be a challenge. I got most of the nylon goods dried but the Thorlo socks and shoes were problematic. I figured I would simply wrap them up and confine them to an outer pouch of my duffel suitcase.


48 hours later I opted for a plastic laundry bag wrap as the Cotswold soil and damp had fermented to a delightful brew.


Dinner at the Inn was a treat. I opted for a seafood salad, craving and needing a lot of vegetable after my jet lag brain clock disruption. The Eight Bells serves up great food and the most amazing bread, a sprouted barley, I have ever had. With a virtuous seafood salad I sprang for a lovely dessert; a classic Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Vanilla Ice cream. I also had a 1/2 pint of "Old Rosey" scrumpy cider. A wicked unfiltered hard cider with a Alcohol content of 7%+


Old Rosey came from the yellow tap. I think an Angel Choir went
"AHHHHHHH" when it was drawn. A beam from High Above accounts for the yellow glow, I am sure.





It was pure bliss. Every soft, silken, flavorful luscious, sumptuous, decadent mouthful.


Here is a recipe I found! I am sure you will want to take a stab at this. Not sure where you will find an appropriate cider to pair with.



Aren't I nice??? Believe me, you need to try this.